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LABRYS: The Mysterious Minoan Double Axe

Minoan votive double axe, 1700-1450 BCE. Benaki Museum, 44022. On display at the Hellenic Museum in the Gods, Myths & Mortals exhibition.

Many double axes, like this one displayed at the Hellenic Museum, have been found on the Greek island of Crete. This kind of axe was called a labrys and had special religious meanings to the ancient Minoan civilisation that lived on the island (from 1450 –1100 BCE ). The curve of the double axe blade looks like a crescent moon and archaeologists believe that a great female Moon and Earth goddess may have been associated with the labrys.

In Minoan Crete, the labrys was not a weapon, instead it was used by female priestesses to make bull sacrifices. These sacrifices may have had something to do with ensuring that deceased people made it to the afterlife.

According to Greek myth, legendary female warriors called Amazons who fought mighty Greek heroes, were thought to use double headed axes like this in battle.

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